The Technological Fix
Why is technology progressive (why is it possible to
on the past and keep making progress)?
does technology give us power
or does it leave us
on a web of complex systems that we cannot understand or control?
- some human activities are progressive, some
- Technology is progressive because it is
- Rationality (an objective and logical
because it gives clear answers
- but rationality is limited, can't be used to
- Rationality is a means that can be used
- the rational world view tends to lead to the
the natural world (and even other people) are just there for us to
The Technological Fix=the idea
that all problems (even social problems) have technological solutions
- for example, if automobiles cause
add more technology to the automobile to reduce the pollution (instead
of substitution public transportation).
- can technology solve the problems of the
ghettos? Solve the problems
- Do we solve a problem like water shortages
people not to water their lawns or not have lawns or by increasingly
technological systems to bring water from someplace else?
we seek may be mere illusion)
- Henry Ford: "We shall solve the city
leaving the city."
- "Americans in particular have often seen
progress as the surest basis for progress in general, and have tended
believe that technological solutions to problems are less painful than
solutions that require political or social changes." (Rudi
and Technological Change, 3rd edition, p. 16)
The difficulty of social problems:
- Social problems are much more complex and
than technological ones. Yet technological fixes sometimes work,
at least partially.
- The traditional solution to social problems
to get people to behave more rationally (or to act for the good of
rather than in their own self-interest).
- Goals are less clear for social problems,
Human behavior is hard to change
- technological solutions to social problems
incomplete and to replace one social problem with another.
- how do engineers deal with the social
when they are trained to solve technological problems, not social
for Social Responsibility)
- is this also an issue for
Society has sometimes looked to engineers for
is another kind of technological fix that tries to make an area of
life more rational with the idea that this will make progress possible.
management sought to rationalize
- home economics sought to bring
- On a larger scale this became the
- Engineers in the 1920s thought that what
is more efficiency and that government should be run more by engineers
and other technical experts and less by politicians (engineering
We have indeed gone in this direction. (The best book
on this is Walter McDougall, ...the Heavens and the Earth: A
History of the Space Age)
- In 1932, in the height of the depression,
there was a
lot of talk about Technocracy--a
movement whose leaders
proposed to end
the depression by a dictatorship of engineers. Present day
say this description is an exageration, but the rhetoric at the time
- An alternate view: "The most powerful
supporters of stasis
are technocrats - people, often in position of power, who believe that
the future can and should be engineered." Technocracy
What do we miss when we are focused on progress?
Does technological change always hurts someone?
of the day:
Kranzberg's six laws of technology state:
- Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
2nd - Invention is the mother of
3rd - Technology comes in
packages, big and small.
4th - Although technology might
be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take
precedence in technology-policy decisions.
5th - All history is relevant,
but the history of technology is the most relevant.
6th - Technology is a very human
activity - and so is the history of technology.
this page written and copyright Pamela
last updated 9/9/05